Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

A Series of Hope / Advent week 4

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"The Annunciation"


Welcome to this final conversation in Advent, thinking about hope.


Many a Biblical scholar has remarked that the deep miracle of Jesus’ birth is not that he was born of God and woman, not that he was fully divine and fully human. The true miracle is that Mary said, “Yes.”


What was in that teenage woman that allowed her to trust the words of the angel and to face the dangers of childbirth as an unwed mother? What allowed her to accept the hostility of the community, the skepticism of her betrothed, the mysterious nature of her conceiving with such quiet grace? I think we can’t quite know that, but her willingness to do so, to be a vehicle for God’s grace, has been the model for Christians ever since. In letting God work through her, Mary herself became a sign of God’s presence and a sign of hope.


That, I think, is an important piece of our contemplation of hope. Hope is ultimately not something given that we receive passively. Rather it is something offered that flowers when we grasp it and work with it, when hope becomes part of who we are.


I must confess that I think the world has become increasingly callous. Maybe it’s the 24-hour news cycle. Maybe it’s the constant presence of woe and disaster on social media, the doom scrolling that has become ubiquitous. Maybe we are, in fact, less caring about people outside our immediate communities. I don’t really know. But I do know that when I see folks behaving in a generous and loving way towards another person, it makes me tear up. It makes me cry because it is in enacting generosity and kindness that hope is kindled in our hearts and conveyed to others.


Hope, like faith and love, is a verb and it takes form and substance in action. The question for us is not, do we have hope? The question is, are we hopeful for others? Do we give others reasons to give thanks, to try again, to be kind to their neighbors? Hope is born of our dreams of a better world and takes flight in the risks we take in living out our dreams in the midst of our daily lives.


Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “If tomorrow were the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today.” Because there is always time for good. Because hope flowers in action. Because maybe tomorrow actually won’t be the end. Because maybe, beyond all reasoning, God has something else in mind.


May we in our lives of faith not simply wait for hope, but give it arms and legs. May we, like Mary, carry hope to others. May we dream out loud about new possibilities. And may we proclaim the signs that God is near.